Blasphemy: Musician appeals conviction, says Sharia law illegal

A 22-year-old musician, Yahaya Shariff-Aminu, who was sentenced to death for blaspheming Prophet Mohammed, has filed a notice of appeal before a Kano State High Court, describing Sharia law as practised in the state as unconstitutional and undemocratic.

Shariff-Aminu was sentenced to death by an Upper Sharia Court on August 10, 2020, but was given 30 days to file an appeal.

Governor Abdullahi Ganduje had expressed readiness to sign the convict’s death warrant once the 30 days lapses.

In the notice of appeal marked CR/43/2020, and filed by his lawyer, Kola Alapinni, the convict sued the Attorney-General of the state and the governor.

He based his appeal on the grounds that the Sharia law, which formed the basis of his conviction, was illegal and unconstitutional.

The notice of appeal read in part, “The appellant’s trial, conviction and sentencing by the Upper Sharia Court of Kano State pursuant to the Kano State Penal Code Law, 2000, were unconstitutional, null, void having grossly violated and conflicted with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended and having violated the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, respectively.”

The musician said the confessional statement was a nullity because the alleged crime did not exist in the constitution.

He added, “The Penal Sharia Code Law is only applicable and permissible in Islamic theocracies or countries, whose constitution allows for such, whereas Nigeria is a secular state with constitutional democracy and the constitution being the supreme law.”

The convict said the state was quick to charge and convict him but denied him legal representation even though there was an existing framework for legal aid in Kano State.

The musician noted that the trial was a secret one and was a breach of his right to fair hearing.

The appeal further read, “The Kano State Government as a party and prosecutor to the complaint was a complicit party when it failed to provide adequate security and equal enforcement of secular laws and good order for all citizens/residents regardless of ethnicity or religious affiliations and thereby encourages religious fundamentalism, vigilante activities, insecurity, lawlessness, mob actions, all of which blasphemy law or provisions seek to justify unlawfully in order to placate Muslims.”

He said the entity called Kano State was a creation of the constitution and thus could not operate outside it.

The musician therefore prayed the court to set aside the trial, conviction and sentencing handed down by the Sharia Court and enter a judgment in his favour.

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